Tag Archives: martyrdom

One flesh

My sermon for the past Sunday was on “One Flesh”, it refers to the Genesis 2:24 and Mark 8 passages. Clearly these passages speak to the physical marriage of man and woman, but we seem to not remember that as Christians we are the part of the Body of Christ, that His Church is the Body of Christ, which we, who are saved in Jesus, are part of. As discussed in Revelation 21, 22, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Now I’m not trying to get cute or all weird, but it does seem to follow that because of that, because we take the true Body and Blood of Jesus, that we all become one flesh. Yes, the Bible passages are to be understood as a man and a woman becoming one flesh. They should both readily understand that and that Jesus’ command that “…What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) An aside, I have to tell you for those who are involved in facilitating divorce; judges, clerks, lawyers, I truly feel at least a concern. I do not know how people can participate in something that Jesus clearly condemns.

I was also reading Henry and Richard Blackaby’s devotional (Experiencing God Day by Day p 277) which starts “Christians do not live in isolation”. No we certainly don’t, and yet too many who call themselves “Christian” will simply not understand the idea of the Body of Jesus, Bride of Jesus, one flesh etc. We are too much about what are we getting out of this and not at all about what is the Body of Jesus about. I get it, most of us have difficult lives, pressing concerns and different demands that we do need to confront immediately. Certainly the media is beating us into submission, compassion fatigue and when things happen, over and over, in the Body of Christ, we just have to withdraw or be overwhelmed. Yea, I get it. However, we are, nonetheless, part of the Body of Christ. One flesh? Not now, but ultimately, in the resurrection, in the same sense of a married man and woman? Yes. But just because we are not in the same sense as Genesis and Mark describe, does that make it any less genuine? And now, in the shadow of the murders at Umpqua Community College, Charleston SC, Columbine, Lancaster, Pa, just for the United States and the horrific murders in Iraq, Syria, China, Africa on and on shouldn’t that be a signal pain in the Body of Christ, and if we are part of that Body shouldn’t we at least wince?

Maybe there is a fatigue going on, but if the persecutions of Christians throughout history that resulted in resolve and strength to the Body, shouldn’t that be apparent now? If so, how does that look? If your reaction is “wow that’s too bad” or “see that’s why we need gun control” or “every Christian should carry a gun” as the Lt Governor of Tennessee suggested, shouldn’t that suggest to the individual that maybe they’re not in communion with the Body of Christ as they should be?

The Blackabys write: “We depend on one another, and this influences everything we do. Jesus said that even when we pray, we are to begin by saying ‘our Father’ (Matt 6:9). We must do everything with our fellow Christians in mind. (1 Cor 14:12)” Yes, He is our Father. OK, that means children? Yes, it does. Is this another mystery of being in Christ along with the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, Resurrection? Yea, apparently. Does it mean that just because the concept seems obscure, it’s not valid? No, I don’t think so. The Blackabys suggest: “Ask God to place a burden on your heart for fellow believers.” I do think it’s necessary. Can you ignore such profound pain in your body and not feel it, dismiss it? I’m not sure what the “cure” is. Certainly we are always called to pray. We should remember Tertullian’s words, a Roman, in the middle of the persecutions of the early Christian. He said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Certainly those who are martyred receive great reward, but for us still in our earthly life, to simply dismiss the suffering and murder of Christian brothers and sisters is not acceptable. As with everything in our Christian life we are always in prayer. We also are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, where is He moving us to confront or to help those in persecution? What are the opportunities He is presenting us and our local church with in order to witness to Jesus to a world that is lost and filled with death. A world that hates God and His people and believes that it is somehow serving a greater God by killing Christians. “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Jesus’ words, we certainly trust His Words and this is face to face reality for many. The answers aren’t easy we are to trust in God. Paul certainly appealed to civil law for protection against the mob and unfair judgment. I’m not saying to roll over and play dead, but certainly we remember those Christian Martyrs  who gave up everything they had and witnesses to Christ and sacrificed their life. That is a witness to the world that the Holy Spirit uses to change lives and bring them to salvation in Jesus. Stay in prayer, pray for those who hate and abuse you, and know what the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart and act accordingly.

Will you fight?

Really interesting  question. Even if you will fight, do you really know how. The question is prompted by Kelly McCann writing in BlackBelt Magazine (Oct/Nov 2013 pp 28-29). Kelly is a former Marine officer and martial arts expert. He raises a great question he’s perfectly capable of fighting and he, undoubtedly, would do it ably.
I know, this isn’t a subject that most people want to answer and certainly not confront. I’m not asking this question to be somehow  provocative, maybe I am asking you to take a hard look at yourself and maybe think about your courage, integrity and faithfulness. Ya, I know, not exactly polite, hey I’m a pastor, I’m not a politically correct pastor, and frankly I’m not always looking to be popular. One of the pastor’s creeds is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”, if I’m not challenging you, if I’m not pushing you to question and grow, especially in terms of being a Christian, then really I’m not doing my job. This isn’t to get up in your grill, it is intended to confront yourself.

I have had to take on fights, some of them actually physical, some of them emotional but it felt as traumatic as physical (with some of them frankly I would have preferred getting punched in the head. There are times when I’ve felt prepared for a fight, but as Vince Lombardi (and maybe General George Patton) once said, “fatigue makes cowards of us all”. Normally I would have “picked up the gauntlet, but weighing the importance of the issue to my physical condition, I have decided to punt on occasion and walk away. As someone who has been trained to fight, and instruct others, one of the first things I will tell people and I’ve heard this from professionals, such as MMA combatants, in a physical confrontation, if you have a way to escape, do it. There’s a lot of reasons why, but I want to talk about the times that are important and what is “important”. You might have to actually wade into physical danger, you might be the difference between death of serious injury, what would you do. Coast Guard training taught me, you’re always thinking about your options, you’re always considering what is going around you, what to take advantage of and what to avoid.

As a pastor, my main concern is whether you will stand and fight for what is ultimately important. Down through history Christians have confronted the choice of denying Christ or standing up for what is the best, what is eternal, what really matters. A very discomforting fact for most Christians is that there were more martyrs for Christ in the 20th century then in the first 19 centuries of Christendom, combined. Granted for most Americans that is not really an imminent threat, but the challenge to most Americans is ostracism, marginalization, disdain, ridicule. For most of us who are rather obsessed with our dignity and being respected, these are tough obstacles, as I said, we might prefer a good smack in the head. On the upside and much more importantly is the reassurance Jesus gives us when we do stand up for what is right, especially when we, as Christians, stand up for Him: ESV Matthew 5:11- 12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” People who really matter, have gone through so much more, then you probably ever have or will have.

Captain McCann writes: “The biggest compliment I can give anyone is “He’ll fight” or “She’ll fight”. It may sound trite or one-dimensional, but it’s far from that. People too often say about others, “Of course they’d fight.” But it’s been my experience that a lot of people won’t fight. They may train but still won’t when attacked. My point is that knowing 1,000 techniques doesn’t replace the need to simply fight.” Many times a Christian will run away from a fight because they don’t feel prepared, or that the other person knows more, or frankly they just don’t have the faith. Jesus told us: “ESV Luke 12:11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12 ESV). I’ve had that experience, I genuinely felt that I was given the words. More then one occasion I found out, through the “discussion”, that the person really didn’t know what they were talking about. Perhaps the Holy Spirit used that “discussion” to convict the person. I didn’t have anyone come to Christ with what I said. But we never know how the Holy Spirit uses our words and actions. I’d love to be that person’s pastor, but if they come to Christ and go to another church because of the words the Holy Spirit gave me, well the ultimate outcome for anyone is to be led by God to salvation. I have never really had a negative experience jumping into the “fight”, witnessing for Christ. If anything I would say that much like taking on a physical challenge, the feeling was of some degree of exhilaration. I truly felt that I had been used by the Holy Spirit.

So why don’t we “fight”? Captain McCann notes: “Fighting can be scary because of the consequences: there’s pain involved, and you can be hurt or killed. But if you’ve inured yourself to those things through intense training and visualization, the act of fighting becomes much easier.” I’ve gotten some of my best whacks playing basketball, ironically. After I realized I survived the elbow to my face and to the top of my head, again there was an exhilaration, and of course just as importantly a great war story. I was involved in a case where the air temp was zero and the wind chill was 70 below. Didn’t enjoy it at the time, but it’s a great story now. Those “stories” that I get to share, ok, ya, there is more than element of bragadacio, which is not really where you want to be. But it’s also for the benefit of those listening. “Wow, I can fight, I can survive and not only that, but God will give me that exhilaration, that knowledge of knowing that I have served the Kingdom. That I may have been used by God for Him to lead someone else to salvation in our Lord Jesus.”

There is simply nothing better, being a servant of the Kingdom, we even have the promise of building treasure in heaven. (2 Corinthians 4: 6-7) Not just through our giving, but also serving “to give light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

What about preparation? In physical fighting? Yes, of course, as much as possible, but there could be times when you have to confront and you don’t feel prepared. You’re never going to be be prepared as well as you could be, you just may have to confront anyway. In physical confrontations you may have to back off, that’s a whole separate discussion, but in terms of Christ? “For such a time as this”, to quote Esther. She probably wasn’t as prepared as she could be, but in faith she went before the king. Do not doubt that the Holy Spirit has you in this time and place for a reason, He will guide you as Jesus promised. He will also guide your reaction, sometimes you do have to push back, sometimes you do have to be compassionate, sometimes you will have to challenge, lots of times you won’t be sufficiently preparedImage. We see Jesus in all these types of situations, He is faithful and will lead you where He wants you. Yes, it would be nice to be all correct and polite, but sometimes that’s not what the situations demands. If He’s leading you in a way He’s doing it for His purpose and glory, and He calls us to be faithful. So sure, seek out training, not just for yourself, but for you to train others, be a good disciple

So, will you fight? Is the Holy Spirit leading? You don’t have to look for fights, you don’t have to be pugnacious, usually, you don’t have to be obnoxious, but you do have to be faithful and sometimes being faithful means stepping up to the fight. To quote Nike, just do it.